What would you say if someone walked up to you and told you that singing and songs with vocals are always superior to those without vocals? Back up your reasoning.
I would agree with them. Because words matter. They're the most definitive form of communication and show intent and meaning, whereas just instrumental music can be about anything or perceived to be about anything.
I wouldn't say that instrumental music can be percieved as about anything. Sometimes, adding words to melodies without words can change the meaning of the song and make it less enjoyable to listen to (that's what I thought about moanin). I do agree that sometimes, words do matter.
I would say that they were making a subjective assertion and that there is no objective way to prove the 'superiority' of a capella vocal music to songs with instrumental accompaniment, instrumental music, or even percussion only.
Scat singing (y'know, where the singer just goes "shoodley doodley zeebidy bop" or something like that) is vocal, but there are no words. Is that just as 'superior' to instrumental music as vocal music with words?
Finally, compare a rousing chorus of "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain" or "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to one of the Brandenburg Concertos (take your pick). Some people like to hear singing better than they like to hear instruments. Some people like the other way 'round.
It seems pretty lazy for someone to claim that vocal music is inherently superior to all other kinds. They should just have the courage to admit that they like vocal music better than all other kinds. I happen to like folk music best*. But that doesn't make it 'superior' to rock 'n' roll, opera, or marching band music.
*At the moment, anyway. My tastes in music have changed radically over the years. And while I like folk music best, I still really enjoy practically all other types of music. The only kinds I don't particularly care for are the 'experimental' kinds from the mid-20th Century. There was one 'composition' called 4'33" (Four Minutes, Thirty-three Seconds), where the performer doesn't actually play his instrument, and the sounds the crowd makes are supposed to be the music.
I know, right? Not my bag, either. But there you go.
Ah! The John Cage piece! I had a friend who performed 4'33 as part of her undergraduate piano concert and she admitted it was the most difficult piece to perform, given that all you could hear in the theatre was the laugh of people like me, and she was trying to keep a straight face. The whole concept of this piece is to show that total silence does not exist. Pretty cool!
The funny thing is, I could probably play that piece as well as your friend the piano major, and I was crap at piano and haven't touched one since 1993. I'd even be able to transpose it for trumpet, guitar, or kazoo without even practicing beforehand.
Performing the piece well requires superior acting skills, otherwise it is just someone sitting there. I am a professional musician and I'd have to put in some serious work before I would attempt to perform it.
Not in the slightest. I am a full-time professional classical musician with 24 years' experience and a graduate degree in music and postgraduate work as well. Cage is an extraordinary composer and I wouldn't dare risk my performing reputation just going out on stage and sitting there. The audience has to buy into the concept that 4'33" is a musical work and just sitting there won't cut it by a long shot.
My own specialty happens to be early music so Cage is a bit out of my comfort zone but if I, a 54-year-old woman, can routinely play adolescent boys on stage (and run around chasing 30-year-old sopranos who are supposed to be twenty years my senior) without blinking an eye about believability, then the fact that I wouldn't dare perform Cage without serious preparation ought to tell you something about what is expected from a Cage performance, especially of this particular work. (I did Cage back in high school, too, so I'm not unfamiliar with his oeuvre.)
Huh. See, this is exactly what I was talking about above, when I said you can't objectively declare one kind of music to be superior to another.
Me, I don't look at 4'33" as a difficult piece to perform as a musician. In fact, your remark that it requires superior acting skills, rather than superior musicianship, seems to support my position.
Do I argue that 4'33" isn't art? Of course not: it unquestionably is. Do I argue that it isn't music? Again, of course not. I just don't much like it is all.
Out of curiosity, what would you do in performing 4'33" other than sitting at the piano?
I too have a background in music; it was my minor in college. So while I don't imagine that I'm a musician of your caliber, I'm also not just some guy throwing rocks.
Jeff, I looked up this interview with John Cage for you to watch. I hope you do. It's interesting how his brain works and he does have a point.
If I were to perform 4'33" (and again, this is only my interpretation), for me it is about the time between the intent to begin playing and the actual start of the performance. In that short space, numerous things happen. To perform 4'33" would take my analyzing everything that happens in that time between the intent to begin playing and the start of the sound in different movements, and then elongating each one of those things into the time required (with their relative durations), as well as conveying that interpretation to the audience.
Another way I might approach this would be to take a standard sonata-form, analyze everything non-musical that goes on while I play it, and then, again, compress everything into the relative duration and convey that to the audience.
I consider this performance to be pretty interesting:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUJagb7h … ure=fvwrel
although there are a lot of things I might have done differently.
Oh, and one clarification: although I grew up speaking English, I forgot it when I was overseas and had to relearn it as an adult so sometimes I choose not quite the right word (because I have to look them up in the dictionary). I mistyped when I wrote "acting." It should have been interpreting.
Hey, check out john cage's music for radios. It's trippy!! Lol
My reasoning would be that reggae "versions" (or "dub") are far more interesting and more mind-twisting than its vocal counterparts. That is why an entire genre was born and survived four decades.
One may recall lounge music of the 60s, with orchestras led by Bert Kaempfert, James Last, Paul Moriat, Werner Mueller and others.
Sometimes music doesn't need words to communicate an emotion. There are other times when the words are prettier than the actual melody. It all depends on how well written either one is.
Here's another reasoning: Classical music. Beat it! I know they wrote Operas and lieder, but most people just listen (IF they do) to pure instrumental pieces written for strings, piano, harpsicord and English horns.
It would depend on which kind of music I was listening to. I know of very little pop music which is purely instrumental, but there is a lot of classical music which is so. It would also depend on which instrument. I particularly love the sound of the harpsichord, which to me sounds much better as a purely instumental piece. With opera, it is the words which are of greatest importance, because opera is a play set to music and so needs the words to tell the story.
I like both, but if I were "going to be stranded on a deserted island" with only one kind of music, I'd probably go with the instrumental-only. There's a whole lot that can be done with the right instrumental-only - whether that's a big, powerful, orchestra (regardless of the kind of music) or a mostly lone pan flute, guitar, or piano (with just a little back-up by less noticeable other instruments). Oh yeah - get the human-voice factor out (whether I'm going to be on that deserted island or not). No voice can ever compete with instrumentals. Not saying I don't like lyrics and human voices - only that I'd choose instrumental if I could only have one kind of music. In fact, this question (thread) has made me happy just thinking about all that's out there in instrumental music. I never get happy just thinking about human-voice music (no matter how much I may like some of it.
If I had to choose I think I would pick the guitar! (made a little pun there, didn't I!) the guitar is so versitile and I love all kinds of spanish music on the guitar - flamenco and all the different rhythms - the guitar can also be a percussive instrument and when certain classical guitarists play it is heavenly. I love voices too, but when I am tired and cranky a nice soft guitar melody will mellow me out completely.
I would probably chuckle and nod, and continue on my way. Each to their own.
If I had to choose vocal over instrumental, I would choose instrumental. Master composers do make music that communicates far better than any words could ever give it justice. Think of the power of great movie soundtracks or a Beethoven's 9th, 7th, 5th...
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